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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

Parsimony of his written work was


Just

on the threshold of his political career Sheridan lost the wife he loved so well. He was profoundly afflicted, but the affliction lessened and he married a Miss {222} Ogle. There is a story told in connection with this second marriage which is half melancholy, half humorous, and wholly pathetic. The second Mrs. Sheridan, young, clever, and ardently devoted to her husband, was found one day, according to this story, walking up and down her drawing-room apparently in a frantic state of mind because she had discovered that the love-letters Sheridan had sent to her were the same as those which he had written to his first wife. Word for word, sentence for sentence, passion for passion, they were the same letters. No doubt Sheridan made his peace. It is to be presumed that he thought the letters so good that they might very well serve a second turn; but this act of literary parsimony was not happy. Parsimony of his written work was, however, Sheridan's peculiarity. Verses addressed to his dear St. Cecilia make their appearance again and again, under altered conditions, in his plays. It is singular enough, as has been happily said, that the treasures of wit which Sheridan was thought to possess in such profusion should have been the only species of wealth which he ever dreamed of economizing.

{223}

CHAPTER LVII.

FOX AND PITT.

justify;">[Sidenote: 1781--Fall of the Lord North Administration]

Pitt entered public life the inheritor of a great name, the transmitter of a great policy, at a time when the country was in difficulty and the Government in danger. In the January of 1781 North was still in power, was still supported by the King, had still some poor shreds of hope that something, anything might happen to bring England well out of the struggle with America. In the November of the same year North reeled to his fall with the news of the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. In those ten months Pitt had already made himself a name in the House of Commons. He was no longer merely the son of Pitt; he was Pitt. He had attached himself to an Opposition that was studded with splendid names, and had proved that his presence added to its lustre. The heroes and leaders of Opposition at Westminster welcomed him to their ranks with a generous admiration and enthusiasm. Fox, ever ready to applaud possible genius, soon pronounced him to be one of the first men in Parliament. Burke hailed him, not as a chip of the old block, but as the old block itself. The praises of Burke and of Fox were great, but they were not undeserved. When the Ministry of Lord North fell into the dust, when the King was compelled to accept the return of the Whigs to office, Pitt had already gained a position which entitled him in his own eyes not to accept office but to refuse it.


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